Had Duke wanted to spy on N.C. Central before tonight’s exhibition game, it would have been very easy. The Eagles recently practiced in Card Gym, just a long three-pointer from Cameron Indoor Stadium, while their own gym underwent repairs.
N.C. Central moves onto Coach K Court tonight at 7 p.m. to take on the Blue Devils in Duke’s final exhibition contest. With new NCAA regulations prohibiting Division I schools from playing preseason contests against teams other than four-year colleges, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski decided to make the limitations a positive for the Durham community.
“I thought it would be good for our area,” said Krzyzewski, who is involved in a number of projects in Durham, including the construction of a family life center named in memory of his mother. “I think they’ll be good. Their coach is a solid coach, and right now we can only play four-year collegiate schools who are not Division I.”
For their part, the Eagles are excited about the added area exposure for their program and the opportunity to play a team of the Blue Devils’ caliber. N.C. Central still knows tonight will be as much about the experience as the basketball.
“We want to be excited, but not too excited. It’s still a game,” first-year N.C. Central head coach Henry Dickerson said. “As a Division II school playing a school of the quality of Duke with a Hall of Fame coach like Coach K, we hope to play hard and represent our school and see what happens. It’s difficult to say, ‘Yes, we can beat them and we can beat them in Cameron.’ How many schools can say that?”
The relationship between the two programs extends beyond N.C. Central’s recent use of Card Gym. Duke also shares its world-class sports medicine facility and doctors with its Durham neighbor.
Dickerson, who joined the Eagles this summer after five years as the head coach of Division I Tennessee-Chattanooga, does not know Krzyzewski on more than a professional level. He did, however, send him a kind note after the Duke coach turned down an offer to coach the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers this summer.
“It’s a respect of where Duke is at and where we are at,” Dickerson said of the connection between the two schools. “If they see they can help us, then they will. That’s the type of relationship we’re dealing with.”
The Eagles will be playing their second exhibition game of the season, having defeated Athletes in Action, 59-55 Nov. 5. Forward Jonathan Moore and guard Curtis Knight led the team in scoring with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
Besides dealing with the Blue Devils and the Cameron crowd, N.C. Central is coping with the loss of David Young, who the Seattle Supersonics selected in the second round of the 2004 NBA draft.
Although Krzyzewski is content to play the Eagles, he does not feel that playing four-year, non-Division I collegiate teams is the correct long-term exhibition fix.
“So that was the solution to that problem, but I don’t think we’ve come up with the right solution yet,” Krzyzewski said. “Do we add another game to the regular season? Do we have like a scrimmage day, where Syracuse, us, Michigan and someone else could get together for a weekend and have a National Kick-off, like [former Big East Commissioner] Dave Gavitt has talked about, in the first weekend of November?”
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Dickerson is more positive about the current Division I exhibition rules because of the potential benefits to his program. He said if the rules remain the same next year he would try to schedule two local ACC teams during the preseason, instead of just one like he did this year.
Krzyzewski said tonight’s game would be a chance to refine the team’s sets, but that the rotation is fairly solidified.
Freshman guard DeMarcus Nelson will not play against N.C. Central, remaining sidelined by a thumb injury sustained about two weeks ago. Krzyzewski said after Duke’s exhibition win over St. Francis Xavier Friday that he is expected to return for Duke’s regular season opener Saturday at home against Tennessee-Martin.